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The Buccaneers leave the town of Santa Maria, and proceed by sea to take Panama. Extreme difficulties, with sundry accidents and dangers of that voyage.
HAVING been in possession of the town of Santa Maria only the space of two days, we departed thence on Saturday, April 17th, 1680. We all embarked in thirty-five canoes, and a periagua, which we had taken here lying at anchor before the town. Thus we sailed or rather rowed down the river in quest of the South Sea, upon which Panama is seated, towards the Gulf of Belona, whereat we were to disembogue into that ocean. Our prisoners, the Spaniards, begged very earnestly that they might be permitted to go with us, and not be left to the mercy of the Indians, who would show them no favour, and whose cruelty they so much feared. But we had much ado to find a sufficient number of boats for ourselves, the Indians that left us having taken with them, either by consent or stealth, so many canoes. Yet notwithstanding this they found soon after either bark logs, or old canoes, and by that means shifted so well for their lives, as to come along with us. Before our departute we burnt both the fort, the church and the town, which was done at the request of the king, he being extremely incensed against it.
Among these canoes it was my misfortune to have one that was very heavy, and consequently sluggish. By this means we were left behind the rest a little way, there being only four men besides myself, that were embarked therein. As the tide fell, it left several shoals of sand naked, and hence, we not knowing of the true channel, amongst such a variety of streams, happt ned to steer within a shoal, for above two miles, before we perceived our error. Hereupon, we were forced to lay by until high water came, for to row in such heavy boats against the tide is totally impossible. As soon as the tide began to turn, we rowed away in prosecution of our voyage, and withal made what haste we could, but all our endeavours were in vain, for we neither could find nor overtake Our companions. Thus at about ten o'clock at night, the tide being low, we stuck up an oar in the river, and slept by turns in our canoe, several showers of rain falling all the night long, which pierced us to the skin.
But the next morning, no sooner had day come than we rowed away down the river as before, in pursuit of our people. Having gone about the space of two leagues, we were so fortunate as to overtake them. For they had lain that night at an Indian hut, or embarcadero, that is to say landing place, and had been taking in water till then. Being arrived at the place they told us that we must not omit to fill our jars there with water, otherwise we should meet with none in the space of six days' time. Hereupon we went every one of us the distance of a quarter of a mile from the embarcadero, to a little pond, to fill our water in calabashes, making what haste we could back to our canoe. But when we returned, we found not one of our men, they all being departed and already got out of sight. Such is the procedure of these wild men that they care not in the least whom they lose of their company, or leave behind. We were now more troubled in our minds than before, fearing lest we should fall into the same misfortune we had so lately overcome.
Hereupon we rowed after them, as fast as we possibly could, but all in vain. For here are found such huge numbers of islands, greater and lesser, as also keys about the mouth of the river, that it was not difficult for us, who were unacquainted with the river, to lose ourselves a second time amongst them. Yet notwithstanding, though with much trouble and toil, we found at last that mouth of the river, that is called by the Spaniards Boca chica, or the Little Mouth. But as it happened, it was npw young flood, and the stream ran very violently against us; so that though we were not above a stone's cast from the said mouth, and this was within a league brow], yet we could not by any means come near it. Hence we were forced to put ashore, which we did accordingly, until high-water. We hauled our canoe close by the bushes, and when we got out, we fastened our rope to a tree, which the tide had almost covered, for it flows here nearly four fathom deep.
As soon as the tide began to turn, we rowed away from there to an island, distant about a league and a half from the mouth of the river, in the Gulf of San Miguel. Here in the gulf it went very hard with us, whensoever any wave clashed against the sides of our canoe, for it was nearly twenty feet in length, and yet not quite one foot and a half in breadth where it was at the broadest, so that we had only just room enough to sit down in her, and a little water would easily have both filled and overwhelmed us. At the island aforesaid, we took up our resting-place for that night, though it was, from the loss of our company, and the great dangers we were in, the sorrowfullest night that until then, I had ever experienced in my whole life. For it rained impetuously all night long, insomuch that we were wet from head to foot and had not One dry thread about us; neither, through the violence of the rain, were we able to keep any fire burning wherewith to warm or dry ourselves. The tide ebbs here a good half-mile from the mark of high-water, and leaves bare wonderfully high and sharp-pointed rocks. We passed this heavy and tedious night without one minute of sleep, being all very sorrowful to see ourselves so far and remote from the rest of our companions, as also totally destitute of all human comfort; for a vast sea surrounded us on one side, and the mighty power of our enemies, the Spaniards, on the other. Neither could we descry at any hand the least thing to relieve us, all that we could see being the wide sea, high mountains and rocks; while we ourselves were confined to an egg-shell, instead of a boat, without so much as a few clothes to defend us from the injuries of the weather. For at that time none of us had a shoe to our feet. We searched the whole key to see if we could find any water, but found none.